College Advice from Alumni

News Writer, Sarah Wilson.


From roommates to drinking culture, a lot of things change when heading off to college. Not knowing what to expect can make it harder to adjust, so alumni have taken a stand to share their wisdom and experiences.

Going into college means you will most likely meet new people and make new friends. Naturally, this comes with a new view on parties and social events, which can often “get out of hand”, said Jaho Koo, class of 2013.

He explained, “every school has a different social scene. You can’t really go into a new social scene with an expectation. I’ve been to small gatherings which tend to be more laid back and some parties where things went out of hand. When I was in Santa Barbara my freshman year, there was a riot. The next morning I heard a cop got stabbed in the eye. There were people smashing cars with a baseball bat. So that’s one extreme example, I’ve never been to anything like that since. With that said, it’s important to be alert and to be with the people you trust…and this is harder if the party is bigger. The size of the social event or school is a good indicator on what to expect”.

Knowing how to handle peer pressure and knowing how to have “street smarts” can help reduce the possibility of being in frightening situations like the above.

Peer pressure is quite common in big groups of people. It was a common consensus amongst alumni that it can be “hard to control yourself or do what is best for you, not what others are expecting of you.”

When asked about peer pressure in college, Justin Lee, class of 2016, mentioned how he has experienced the smoking culture in Korea, stating it to be ostracizing if you are not doing it. “It is easier to find new peers that smoke than the ones that don’t. It was difficult for me when everyone would get up and go out for a smoke break and I would have to sit alone. The “smokers” tend to spend more time together, therefore, they are able to bond easily. Some of the students that get up to go out on a smoke can’t even smoke properly. They were simply pressured into the culture of smoking by the thoughts of ‘what if they think I don’t fit in with them, what if they think I still have a high school mentality, what if I’m losing the opportunity to bond with other students during the smoke breaks’”.

Justin continued, “their [students] worries of ‘what if’ during the early stages of meeting a new group of people is changing students [their morals and beliefs]. A student that sat inside with me on the day before would show up to class the next day with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter and just place it on top of their table, as if was an advertisement for other students to see.”

Justin wants those entering college to know the point he is “trying to make here is everyone is different and others will respect your choices, especially when everyone is in a new environment. One does not have to become just like the others to fit into the group, it will come naturally. The forced actions that come from peer pressure is easily noticeable and they will only make a fool of themselves.”

He concluded with the statement: “be yourself, people will respect your specialty and it will help you to stand out.”

Class of 2011 Jibby Hwang, who has long graduated from an Australian University, reflected on his experiences with peer pressure and reaffirmed “there will be a lot of peer pressure maybe more than high school.”

He said if GSIS students “want to become the person they desire, they should make the right choice.”

Like Justin he encourages students to “be yourself if you want to make true friends. If you fake who you are they will do the same”.

Jaho, who shared his experience in Santa Barbara California said, If you are under peer pressure, “the best thing is to love yourself. You don’t really owe anyone anything when it comes to treating your own body. Finishing that bottle of vodka might make a cool Snapchat story but it won’t make you a better person”.

Along with partying, another important aspect of college social life is dorms and roommates. Justin said, “Although meeting new people is a good experience and might help with making connections, I recommend students to be roommates with students that they are already familiar with. However, if the students are roommates with strangers, I recommend they set up some mutual rules to prevent discomfort or arguments in the future.” He emphasized to do this early because “It might be already too late to speak up to your roommates once some time passes”.

“Making friends might be the most concerning part of college life. Try to make some friends before heading off to university, especially with other international school students. International school students tend to stick together very well as they are all from the same environment and have mutual friends. This is the easiest method of making friends.”

Justin does not believe this is the only method of establishing friendships and encouraged students to join clubs. He said,  “joining clubs is also a good method of making good friends as the group will work together to achieve a common goal, thus, naturally building teamwork and bond among the group of students”.

While Justin can speak for university in Korea, not everyone is staying in Korea. In fact, most GSIS students are heading outside of the country, so what does it look like to get partnered up with a roommate and how does that process work?

Jaho was the first GSIS student to attend Chapman University in orange County California, so he had to figure out this process all on his own. Yet, what he went through is similar to what most students will have to do.

“I filled out a personality survey and got a match. My first roommate, Nick is an amazing guy, still a good friend of mine. He helped me settle in, took me to the bank for the first time, shopping for groceries etcetera; We also hung out together with a group of friends from our hall. The first few weeks is a good opportunity to be friends with everyone; a fresh new slate and everyone looking to make new friends.”

However, Jaho realized he “definitely lucked out” and said,”I know it’s not like that for everyone. I know people who had to switch roommates because they just didn’t work well together…even with the tests [roommate surveys].”

Since there is no “exact science”  Jaho said “you can’t have expectations.”

“Our residence advisors had everyone sign roommate agreements… We established house rules, went over questions like ‘are we allowed to bring overnight guests?’ or ‘what time is lights out?’ Nick and I pretty much said we’re okay with everything on that list of questions and we rarely had an argument”

Once roommates are out of the way and solved, minds tend to shift to questions like “what will my dorm room look like?”

When it comes to dorms, Suzy Lee, class of 2016, and student at Northwestern University said, “don’t expect a hotel. Even rich, prestigious universities can have underwhelming dormitories, but you get used to the inconveniences very quickly. Some dorms are a lot more social than others. My dorm tends to be a bit antisocial, so I made my best friends from my clubs and classes, but there are definitely dorms where everyone keeps their door unlocked so that they can visit each other at any time.”

Suzy encouraged students to “research about the social atmosphere of each dorm, depending on what you want” before making a decision. Dorms have many different atmospheres such as a “quiet dorm, or a loud, social one”, said Suzy Lee.

Ultimately when approaching and transitioning for university Jaho echoed what all alumni said, “I think it’s extremely important to express how you feel. You can’t expect to get results without communicating in some shape or form on what you want…or what you don’t want. Nobody can tell you that the way you feel is wrong, so we shouldn’t be scared of being vulnerable.”

While Jaho is “still working on that” skill he said communication is something you have to do always because it “applies to life in general.”

“You put yourself out there and you will meet more people who will respond positively”, concluded Jaho Koo.